United Sounds Like It's Learned Its Lessson

[Photo Credit: Jules Meulemans]

Sometimes you have to hit bottom before you turn things around. For United Airlines, that may have been when a passenger was forcibly removed from a United flight to make way for crew members. Followed by a clumsy response to the incident.

I got a note from the airline yesterday, which I'm assuming went to all their United MileagePlus (frequent flier) members. The subject line: Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

In this email, airline CEO Oscar Munoz acknowledged what had happened and said they've since been "urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?" They acknowledge their rigid adherence to procedure and policy over doing the right thing, and have vowed change. 

So what's new?

  • They'll increase incentives to get bumped voluntary up to $10,000. Don't get excited, they'll still start with the low amount, and someone is bound to take the cash before it gets close to that. But this should ensure that no one is every bumped involuntarily. The cash incentive is just too good!
  • They'll reimburse passengers for lost bags up to $1,500 -- no questions asked -- doing away with any lengthy paperwork. 
  • Employees will be enabled to provide "on-the-spot goodwill gestures" to customers when things don't go right.
  • Oh, and this is probably a big point: Once a passenger is on the plane, they won't be removed unless their is an actual risk to safety and security. Making way for a flight crew wouldn't qualify.

And also yesterday, United quietly reached an "amicable settlement" of its case with Dr. David Dao. Neither party is saying how much money was involved, but it's probably quite a bit.

We'll see how it goes. Maybe (hopefully) this is a first step toward friendlier skies not just on United, but on all U.S. airlines. 

Here's part of that letter:



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